Several grassroots activists and clergy with Fair Economy Illinois participated in an act of civil disobedience during a downtown Chicago protest against Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the "Moral Monday" demonstration, during which seven protesters were arrested and another 21 received citations.
Seven Illinois activists were arrested and more than 20 were issued citations after staging a downtown Chicago protest late Monday morning against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts.
As part of their "Moral Monday" demonstration, approximately 150 clergy and grassroots activists with Fair Economy Illinois marched from the Thompson Center to 2 N. Riverside Plaza, the downtown office building of billionaire investor and Rauner ally Sam Zell.
There, 21 activists were issued citations by Chicago police after sitting down in the street and blocking traffic at the intersection of Canal and Madison streets.
Another seven activists were arrested for criminal trespassing after protesting inside the skyway connecting Ogilvie Transportation Center to the Riverside Plaza building.
The "Moral Monday" demonstrators -- who were demanding "fair-share" revenue options, not deep budget cuts, to tackle the state's fiscal problems -- took particular aim at Zell for his $4 million donation to the new pro-Rauner super PAC working to advance the governor's legislative priorities. The stated goal of the "Turnaround Illinois" super PAC is to "support state legislative candidates who support Gov. Rauner's bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way."
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Midwest regional director for the American Friends Service Committee, did not mince words when offering his thoughts on Rauner's proposed budget cuts and pro-business reforms.
"It is so, so ironic that while Gov. Rauner and his billionaire buddy Sam Zell claim to be turning this budget around and turning Illinois' economy around, it will actually be having a devastating impact on our state's most vulnerable citizens," he said shortly before activists participated in the civil disobedience. "We call upon today Gov. Rauner and billionaire Zell to do a real turnaround ... and turn away from this corrupt and sacrilegious budget and these corrupt and sacrilegious economic policies."
Bishop Wayne Miller, with the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was among the 21 people issued citations for blocking traffic.
When asked why he risked arrest, Miller said: "I think it's absolutely necessary for the church to place itself in clear solidarity with the people that are being victimized by the ... budget cuts that are proposed."
Making deep cuts to crucial services "is not the popular opinion about the way we should manage the problem with the state budget," Miller said, adding that he hopes Rauner and his allies "begin to look in a completely different way at the issue of compromise and look at distributing wealth in a way that allows people who have nothing to live."
Here's more from Miller plus other scenes from Monday's protest:
Democratic state leaders and Rauner continue to be at an impasse over a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Faced with a $6 billion budget deficit -- due mostly to the January rollback of the 2011 temporary income tax hike -- Rauner has proposed a $31.5 billion spending plan, which calls for no new revenue and would slash funding from a range of budgetary items, including $1.5 billion from Medicaid.
"We're very much concerned for those who are going to be affected by Rauner's proposed budget cuts if they go through," said Thomas Gaulke, pastor of First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood, who was also issued a citation. "We don't need to cut [programs for] the poorest. We can tax corporations and the 1 percent and have a budget that works for the poor and vulnerable as well as everyone else."
Democratic lawmakers, who have concerns over the level of cuts outlined in Rauner's budget, passed their own spending plan, which the governor says is $4 billion short. Democrats included some spending reductions in their budget and say new revenue sources are needed to make up the difference.
But Rauner refuses to sign an unbalanced budget and says he won't consider new revenue sources unless the legislature agrees to some components of his controversial "Turnaround Agenda," including a property tax freeze, workers' compensation changes and term limits for state politicians.
In the event that a budget agreement is not reached by July 1, the Rauner administration has outlined more than $800 million in spending reductions the governor is preparing to implement.
The administration is looking to reduce spending in a number of areas, including Amtrak transportation, the Child Care Assistance Program, the Community Care Program, which helps seniors stay in their homes, and a service that provides financial assistance to low-income Illinoisans for their utilities.
To avoid deep budget cuts, Fair Economy Illinois favors "fair-share" revenue solutions, including a graduated income tax, a financial transaction tax and the closure corporate tax "loopholes."
"These cuts are unnecessary," Fair Economy Illinois leader Toby Chow said at the Thompson Center before the march. "We know they are unnecessary, because this is a wealthy state full of wealthy people and profitable corporations.
"We call on the governor to turnaround. To change his mind. To repent," Chow added. "It is not too late for the governor to repent."